For those who are home, and for those who are on the way. For those who support the historic and just return of the land of Israel to its people, forever loyal to their inheritance, and its restoration.
So, with Conservative leader David Cameron having been appointed as Prime Minister on Tuesday evening and with the Liberal Democrats under Nick Clegg having agreed to join the Conservatives in a coalition government, here, in bullet point form, is a summary of my initial thoughts on what this all might mean for Britain’s policy on Israel and the Middle East. This is an instant reaction. I will flesh it out when the government programme is released later. Here goes:
** Foreign policy generally will take a distant second place to the economy. The European Commission last week forecast Britain’s budget deficit would grow to 12 percent of gross domestic product by the end of the year, exceeding even Greece’s to represent the largest deficit in the entire 27-member European Union. That will occupy the business of this government for as long as it lasts. Only foreign policy matters involving Britain’s armed forces engaged in combat (Afghanistan, mainly) will ever likely rise to the top of the political agenda in any meaningful way.
** With that in mind, consider that the word “Israel” did not appear once in the Conservative Party’s election manifesto. The Tories pledged only to “support a two-state solution to the Middle East Peace Process”. Not what you’d call a mindblowingly original contribution to the debate!
** Given that both parties in the coalition will be preoccupied with the economy and that the Conservative Party, the leading party in the coalition, has shown no real interest in the Middle East anyway, the British Foreign office will find itself in an immensely powerful position to influence the direction of policy. In other words, the (Arabist-oriented) bureacracy is likely to inherit a lot of power by default as top politicians attend to other matters.
** The new Foreign Secretary will be William Hague (Conservative). Hague is a good man, and he is highly intelligent. But it is not clear how much depth there is to his knowledge of Middle Eastern affairs. His best known attitudes to foreign policy are his views on the European Union, (which are sceptical). This would also suggest that he will rely heavily on the traditionally anti-Israeli Foreign Office for guidance on Israel.
I visited Hevron in November 2000 after the outbreak of the Rosh Hashanah War to see what could be done to assist in the face of the growing daily attacks on the community. After returning to work for the community in the summer of 2001, a bond and a love was forged that grows to this day. My wife Melody and I merited to be married at Ma'arat HaMachpela and now host visitors from throughout the world every Shabbat as well as during the week. Our goal, "Time to come Home!"